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The bottom of the 55-gallon drum we use to store chicken feed finally rusted through. For once in my life I was prepared. I had a dozen replacement barrels down in the pole barn. I can’t remember how I obtained them. It might have been in the early 2000s, right after we moved to the farm and I dove deep into the world of auctions (online and off), Craigslisting, and literal dumpster-diving (specifically at convenience store construction sites)(you should see my collection of pristine bricks in a pristine pile with no pristine idea what to do with them for years now) (occasionally I prop something up).

I had a lot of plans. I’m not sure what happened to the plans, but I still have a lot of stuff. If you are interested in 500 feet of green plastic tubing that never quite became the underground pig-watering system of my dreams, just drop me a note and prepare to spend a little time in the weeds.

It also occurs to me that the steel drums may have come via my buddy Mills, who is, um, well, let’s call it a professional-grade collector. Mills hits auctions like an osprey hits fish. Except the osprey stops after one fish, and doesn’t ever jump out behind a bush wearing plastic hillbilly teeth. Beyond the bidding, Mills is a barterer and wheeler-dealer supreme. He’ll trade you anything, he can get you anything. Just yesterday, I received a text from a recording engineer hunting a truckload of sawdust. I didn’t ask why, just texted back, “I know a guy,” and within five minutes Mills wrapped the deal.

Anyways, I went down to grab one of those barrels and was pleased to discover they were in like-new condition. They were sealed, so before I opened the one I chose I checked the label, just to be sure I wasn’t triggering a hazmat surprise. After googling “soy lecithin,” I deemed it safe to proceed, and removed the lid.

Here’s the problem. Commercial soy lecithin is like a combination of Vaseline and molasses. There was a residual inch in the bottom of the barrel. I tried scraping it, I soaked it in water overnight, and finally left the black barrel upended in two days of sun, hoping the goo would melt and run out.

No luck, and it won’t fit in the dishwasher. I did google “how do I wash out a barrel of soy lecithin” and within 30 seconds was scrolling through the world of survivalist forums. In my own sweet way, I like to think I too am a survivalist, but based on what I read there I lack the requisite seriousness. And so it was back to the maybe-survivable world, where without the aid of a search engine it occurs to me that dish soap will probably do it, although in what amount I don’t know, and a pressure washer might be in order. I don’t have a pressure washer, but I know a guy, and he just might let me rent it for the low, low, price of 500 feet of green plastic hose ...

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An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”( Read more from Michael Perry at